What to do next?

Everyone seems to be angry these days and no one knows why. In the age of memes and online trolls, people are agitated, unhappy and spiteful. Despite living in one of the most prosperous times of human existence for a good majority of the world’s population; instead of being happy, spiritual and graceful, the converse has happened. Try watching the news or follow the trends on social media or watch movies, one can find that there is anger and angst everywhere. How did we get here?

How does man’s progress reach a point of sad regress? Instead of being happy with the best of technology and convenience at one’s fingertips, people have become a sorry state of themselves. If one traverses the online world, you can find unhappiness, regret and bitterness all throughout. Be it in the political space, civic space, spiritual space, religious space- there is a general and accentuated degradation of values. Why has this anomaly happened?

I think, because we do not know what to do next.

If you look at human history, the periods of progress have always been in the pursuit of something i.e., it centred around conquests of countries. Successful conquests brought long period of wealth and prosperity to the victors (mostly plundered) in addition to periods of growth and expansions from the cheap labour that the former permitted. These periods of growth were always at the expense of other human lives and livelihood. Yet their role in progress cannot be denied.

In today’s world, despite having the most cutting edge and technology enhance armour, physical wars are long, drawn out and never ending. This is because it is not easy like ancient times to subdue an entire country like the Romans did to the Jews at the beginning of the century (read Masada). The reasons why this is the case is due to the impressive strides made in human consciousness that looks down and abhors brutality and cruelty.

So what do we do next? We need to shift our focus into a higher realm of development. We need to leave the earth and invest to explore the space. The cost of destroying and permanently damaging our earth in our quest for development is simply not worth it for humans and our future generations. We cannot allow our pettiness and dastardliness to one another define who we are or what we are.

Space is definitely the final frontier for humans and it is only a matter of time before we embark on this quest. I have read somewhere, humans were created to travel, to move and explore and not to be static as it has been facilitated today by technology. We are not designed for the lives we are living today and that is the singular reason why we are angry or there is anger everywhere today. It is because, this is not what defines us as humans.

What defines us as humans is to aim higher and seek newer destinations to live a better and meaningful life.

Time Travel

Time travel has been a pet fascination of mine since time immemorial. Ever since I had a chance to read the Time Machine by H.G.Wells, I have been fixated on the practicality of time travel. Although theoretically it may be possible, it is highly unlikely that one gets to actually travel back in time based on the current plane of reference — our existence on this earth. However it may be a possibility with interplanetary or interstellar travel.

There are two things that are true in one’s lifetime — the passage of time and death. The concept of time is baffling- you can measure time but you cannot go backward or forward in time. This makes it a special entity that one faces throughout his life on this earth. The question remains on what to do with all the time we have on this earth?

I do not think that our influence on time is the entire part of the story but it could be the other way around. Time influences us and develops us to what we are as humans. Time is the factor that makes our destinies dance to the whims and fancies of its choosing. I cannot claim that what I do today or did yesterday can completely influence what may happen to me tomorrow. Because time does not behave like that. It may offer clues but never allows your deeds to always influence the outcome.

I have learnt and understood in this short life that good people always get whacked by fate where as the evil people (if you allow such a distinction) gets a free pass most of the time. It may be easy for us to relate this happening to the power of doing evil lasts more than the power of doing good. However this distinction is wrong. In most cases it is ‘time’ that plays its narrative and not fate.

If you look at the tales of dictators around the world. They all had a long period of prosperity where they were able to impose their evil will on people and get away with it. The victims of their deeds in most cases used to be the poor, unfortunate people. Then one day you hear that the same dictators perish in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. It is their time that has come to an end.

I have learnt a simple lesson in life. Good times are like being on the top of a mountain and bad times are like being in the valley. The only way to survive or sustain is to prevent oneself from falling in the case of the former and to prevent digging further in the case of the latter. It is important in those times to withdraw to a shell and maintain the status quo.

Just like the cycle of life, there is also a cycle of time. We commonly hear the words, ‘history repeats’. Time follows the rules of the universe — it repeats, allows many chances. However when one understand this truth, you do not need to travel back or forth in time — you need to travel with time.

Happy New Year

January 1, 2019. A new year.

Another cycle of 12 months has just passed us, and a new year has arrived at our doorstep. As human beings we get charged up every time there is something new in front of us. Having something new is exciting as there is lots of potential to make a true difference. It brings in hope and a new-found optimism. The energy and the power that comes henceforth is raw and needs proper channelling before it ends, and January 2, 2019 starts to feel just like December 31, 2018.

How do we prevent something like that from happening and allow the benefits of the ‘new-found optimism’ to prolong over the next 12 months or even greater? This question has always dazed people especially when resolutions that one set forward in the new year collapse within hours, days or even months after they come into effect.

I believe that ‘intention’ is the first step in a process to ensure that resolutions live or last longer. Resolutions are seeds of newness one finds in the new year. To cultivate or grow them takes some hard work, yet it is not impossible.

I am a strong believer in the principles outlined by Charles Duhigg in his path breaking book ‘The Power of Habit’. In the book, Charles explains the habit loop that has three stages: the cue or the trigger that causes the habit, the routine which is the behaviour and the reward. The thing with most resolutions is that we are good in defining the ‘What (trigger)’ and sometimes the ‘Why (reward)’. Most of the time we fail to define the ‘How (routine)’ which causes the resolutions to fail. For example, just by taking a gym membership doesn’t mean that you lose body fat or weight. At the same time if you work 15+hrs a day and are tired by the time you reach home, you will have only yourself to blame if you cannot find the time to burn the fat, because there is a disconnect between what you want and what you have.

So how then one gets around and use the power of habit in meeting resolutions? That’s where the power of intention comes into play. Intention is the foundation stone of behaviours. Behaviours are key to the success of any habits. It is important to define and agree upon the routine prior to embarking on any habit — or resolution. So how do you define the routine?

Stephen Covey’s habit (2) states that ‘Begin with the end in mind’. If you clearly define the end (reward) by being specific about it, you begin the journey to a successful resolution. For e.g., ‘I want to be 90kgs by the end of December 2019’ by ‘____ (?)’. This is where one needs to define a meaningful routine. For example:

– By going to gym by myself and then get bored and drop off in a week OR

– By employing the services of a fitness trainer and work with him in meeting my objectives?

By having clarity on the routine i.e., challenging it so that it is robust and do not fail, there is a better potential to succeed.

To summarise, resolutions work well when developed as a habit. Any habit needs a strong definition (‘What’), reason (‘Why’) and behaviour (‘How’) to succeed. Start with the ‘why’, define the ‘how’ and see how the ‘what’ starts to make sense.

Happy New Year.

The image problem

We worry about our image all the time. How did we reach here? It may not be a bad thing.

We live in an image conscious world. Thanks to social media, everyone (including yours’ truly is on a quest to show themselves as cool, outgoing and an amazing person to be with. We love to click selfies, show ourselves as always happy, fun loving and having a blast at all times. This to me is one of the blessings of the modern era. No one will know the inner you. The filter that you put on can help conceal what you are really within yourself.

I consider myself fortunate to have spent valuable times with my grandparents in my youth. They came from a generation that preceded the baby boomers. These people witnessed the world wars, the cold wars and every conflict that has come to define the 20th century. They have been through hunger, famine, struggle-everything you name it. These experiences shaped them to rough and tough people who called a spade a spade and walked the talk and talked the talk. Economic prosperity was however denied to them during their time on the earth. Fate did compensate them later with a change in the circumstances of their own children/ grand children.

I’ve had many colourful conversations with my own grandparents about life then versus now. Due to extreme hardships they faced, they valued people and money dearly. They would ensure that relations were maintained and money was spent wisely or not even spent all. They valued things and they abhorred waste.

For a moment consider the 21st century. We thrive in the era of commercialization. We thrive in an era of buying and spending beyond our means. For us economic prosperity was attainable due to the relative peaceful conditions that we live in. We love our gadgets and our instagrammed portraits of ourselves. There is nothing wrong in loving oneself and some may argue it is wise to mind one’s own business in a world such as today.

We live in different times. The human race of my grandfathers evolved into the one of mine that we see today. People would like to lament how good things were back then- but today is even better. It may be crowded and noisy today. But one can find true peace and harmony within oneself. Being image conscious may not be a bad thing after all. It is always better to be the best of what you can be each day.

I have learnt a simple lesson in life which I admit I learnt from my own grandparents. It was years ago and I still remember when my grandmother passed away and her body was moved from the home to the cemetery. My grandfather said he did not want to come and chose to stay home alone. As everyone made their way out, I went and had a look at my grandfather. He was really close to his wife of many years. She completed him and was there with him through thick and thin. He might have dreaded that day when they had to bade goodbye – and today it was here. There was sadness and a sense of fear in his face. Life is never going to be the same again. The realization that in the end, you are all alone by yourself- and your time could be next.

I think it is important to understand that your life is all about you and not anyone else. But I will never say that your world is all about you. The world has never owed anything to anyone and will continue despite you. It is wise to give importance to yourself rather than have a feeling of self importance or entitlement. You will be disappointed if you believe that latter is the case. The old adage holds a self evident truth – ‘Live and let live’. Always remember the first word – ‘Live’.


It is good to return

It has been 4 months since I penned my last post. Life has been good and hectic during this time and it is good to be back to what I know best- blogging.

It is always good to return.

Throughout human history we hear tales of people leaving their homes, their friends and family to embark on a journey- one that which their lives called them to do. Often titled as A Hero’s Journey, tales from religion, folklore, legends to even movies is when this journey commences. The whole sum of life is the time when this journey commences to when it ends.

During this journey, we meet a lot people, see a lot of places, stay in strange places and settings- but we do not remain there forever. We continue on our journey-as our soul is a restless one. One that cannot be quenched or silenced. It will not rest till it reaches its ultimate destination.

Mass and energy are inexplicably interlinked. Our bodies constitutes of the same ingredients found across the cosmos. When we die, the mass (body) decomposes or if cremated is ultimately destroyed. Our soul leaves and it is often believed connects itself back with where it originates. Masculine religions like Christianity or Islam believe that it reaches Paradise. Feminine religions of Hinduism, Buddhism believe that it gets reincarnated and the cycle of life continues.

No one knows for sure.

However it is the return that is important. We all return one day-to our homes, our loved ones, friends and family. We should always strive for that and pray that we are fortunate – to return.

Returning is good. Fulfilling our purpose in life is noble and quintessential.

Let our spirit lead us forward. Never look backward. We often return to the place where we started. That is life.

Photo Credit: The National Guard Flickr via Compfight cc

The End Times

We are at crossroads. Never before has history repeated itself as one can see looking at the world around us. More than ever before, there is growing distrust and unhappiness in the world around us. We are in the midst of the crumbling of an old world order where people were divided or encouraged to divide themselves in the name of caste color or religion. In today’s world, such divisions are starting to crumble. The proponents of the old world order look at it alarmingly and try to rescue what they were used to, but they know that the time is definitely up.

If you look at the narrative of the past, one can definitely see how religion was cleverly used whenever there was a major power in the world. When the British empire ruled the earth, they used a form of Christianity which the missionaries took around the world so that the colonised people did not become self aware. They were successful. Later on after the fall of Berlin Wall, the American empire having vanquished its only enemy, used Evangelism as a fast food tool, to conquer the masses into its own narrative. As the oil boomed, Saudi Arabia used similar techniques to effectively subjugate Iran, remove all the moderate narratives of Islam and replaced it with a hardcore, ultra-conservative Wahhabi inspired version. With the advent of the information technology revolution, these world views have been threatened severely.

Yet today, we are definitely at crossroads. Brexit, Trump and now the emerging alternative movements in Europe and elsewhere do threaten to return us to the dark chapters preceding the Second World War.

For example. remove the word jew and replace it with muslim  and as you revisit the chapters of the past, you can see where this narrative may potentially lead us. I am not hinting that Trump may be the next Hitler, to me he looks more like a protectionist. But I do fear that the real reincarnation of Hitler will emerge in Europe which by its location and history is at a dangerous precipice today.

There will definitely be an implosion. Which may be a good thing as the world would need to move on from centuries old definition of religion to a new modern era of spirituality. May be that is what the end of times may actually mean from the holy books.

Cover photo: Auschwitz

Photo Credit: Lazenby43 Flickr via Compfight cc

It is more or less the same

Eight years ago, as the world welcomed the first Afro-American president, yours truly was one among the millions glued to their television set as the purported (as it feels now) dawn of a new era commenced in the United States. It was a momentous and a historic occasion. Ever since the United States heralded the world into a brutal and bloody recession, all eyes were on the new incoming president with the hopes that he would reverse the tide, bring the perpetrators who were the reason for this in the first place to justice, change the way we see the 21st century and so on. He made tall promises that he will get it done, differently and responsibly.  Eight years later as he bows down from the office, nothing has changed. The world has become a more dangerous place to live in, the gulf between the rich and poor have grown, the middle class has been crushed and the excesses of the 21st century have grown to alarming proportions. When he took office, he promised to change all these, including fixing Wall Street. He did nothing.  To clearly show how nothing really changed during the Obama presidency, it is interesting to note that the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) that directly contributed to the 2008 financial crisis has been reborn today as the bespoke tranche opportunity, the number of convictions in Wall Street fraud is one, and the national debt grew the largest (dollarwise) in his presidency at 7 trillion dollars.

Obama came to power on a platform that was based on change, hope and belief. Hence it is safe to state the following: Do not be fooled by the allusion that things have changed – they have not. They may get better eventually there is a pattern to this madness. Everyone would like to proclaim that they want change- change themselves (I have a slogan for the year- #unbecomeyourself), change their way of life, change their family, change their car etc. But do you think that anything changes? It is all but an illusion; a perception of change. Nothing changes for real- especially when it is hoisted upon artificially.

Then there is a natural pattern to things. The change that is foisted upon by the universe- sometimes gradually or sometimes disrupting. It is like the classic Aesop’s tale of the hare and tortoise. Humans yearning for change are like the hare. They start the race and sprint like the hare. Midway on seeing how far they have come with regards to everyone they have left behind (tortoise) – friends, family, circumstances, home etc., they just get complacent and go into a rut. Once they come out of that rut, they open their eyes and realize that the tortoise has reached the destination and patiently await their return. The defeated hare will again challenge the tortoise for another race at another day and place. However, the results don’t change.

I am a student of history. Nothing excites me more that reading history and drawing parallels with the exciting times that I currently live in. The founding fathers designed the United States of America in the shape and form of the values exhibited by the Roman Empire. The difference was the timely inclusion of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence where it was explicitly stated that the land of the free will grow and prosper based on the simple premise that-

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Did you know that Washington DC, the capital was built referring to the erstwhile Rome before it was ransacked by the barbarians? If the United States turns a blind eye to justice, equality and fairness, the fate of the erstwhile Roman Empire awaits it. Because that is all it takes for history to repeat again and for us to recollect later that- it was more or less the same!.

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston Flickr via Compfight cc